Willets are a very bland shorebird until they open their wings and take flight. Then the flashing black-and-white is extremely eye-catching and makes you wonder how you overlooked them when you scanned the marsh.  And if you somehow miss them in flight they will definitely make you aware of their presence with the loud, repetitive “Pill-willet pill willet pill-willet” calls. Tringa semipalmata is a bird that is easily overlooked until it isn’t.

A recent visit to a capped landfill in Queens early in the morning led to sightings of a few good grassland birds but the Willets, which apparently nest there, stole the show.  The sun had not yet burned off a thick marine mist so it was sometimes difficult to see the birds as they called, giving me the illusion of being totally surrounded by invisible but very loud birds.  Eventually I started to spot them and some even perched up as I drove quite close on the gravel road over the landfill.  Willets are always a somewhat cool bird but seeing and photographing them in the fog was a memorable encounter for sure.

Enjoy these Willet shots and here’s hoping you get to see some Willets in the mist yourself.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.